With Netflix, and other services, TV series have never been so widely available, and the temptation to binge watch a whole season of Breaking Bad in one night can be overwhelming. May contain spoilers.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Synopsis - WARNING: SPOILERS
When Michael Scofield’s brother is imprisoned for the murder of the brother of the Vice President and sentenced to death, he decides to intervene, but not through the courts. Instead the cunning structural engineer commits an armed robbery to ensure that he too is imprisoned in Fox River Penitentiary. On the face of it, this sounds like a pretty bad idea, but, as the title suggests, it is all part of a plan to break his brother, Lincoln Burrows out of prison.
The plan hinges around Michael Scofield, played by Wentworth Miller, having the blueprints to the prison in his possession, with an escape plan already figured out. With just over a month before Lincoln is due to be executed, Michael begins the Prison Break. Of course, he doesn’t just have a copy of the prison blueprints in his back pocket; instead he has them tattooed over his entire body, disguised as just a set of elaborate tattoos. Bit by bit, the plan to escape is revealed as each part of the tattoo comes into use.
With the aid of several other inmates, including Michael’s cellmate Fernando Sucre, criminally insane Charles Patoshik, and convicted child abuser and all round creep Theodore Bagwell, the brothers are eventually able to escape from Fox River, right under the nose of head prison guard Brad Bellick. Here, the first season comes to a close.
Season two opens just hours after the group of escapees, nicknamed “The Fox River Eight”, have managed to escape. But now the group faces a new challenge, as they must evade the nationwide manhunt, headed by Federal Agent Alexander Mahone. Again, this series is dictated by Michael, whose tattoo contains the plan to get the brothers to safety in Panama. However, Mahone hides a dark secret; he works for a shady organisation called “The Company”, which has infiltrated every aspect of the Government. It is revealed that this mysterious Company framed Lincoln for the murder of the brother of the now President, who is a Company agent. On orders from the company, Mahone tracks down and kills the escapees one by one.
After a prolonged battle of wits, the brothers manage to reach Panama, with Mahone and ex prison guard Brad Bellick in hot pursuit. Just when it seems as if the brothers might finally be free, they are arrested by the Panama police and thrown into the lawless prison Sona. In Sona, a prison riot has seen the prisoners take control of the prison, while the guards simply shoot anyone seen to be escaping. In series 3, Michael must, once again escape from prison.
In series 4, free again Michael is contracted by the FBI to steal Scylla, the supposed black book of The Company, so that The Company can be destroyed. The plot thickens as it is revealed that Michaels mother, believed to be long dead, is in fact a high powered Company operative. Mother and Son must battle for the control of Scylla, as tensions mount between Michael and his team and internal divisions threaten the Company from within.
Prison Break certainly starts well, with the high levels of tension sustained throughout the entirety of the first series, thanks in part to an excellent performance from Wentworth Miller. The introduction of characters like Theodore Bagwell into the equation keeps the interest firmly fixed on not only the plan to break out, but who should be part of the plot and allowed to escape. Michael begins to lose control of his brainchild and he must wrest it back, or it is his brother that will pay the ultimate price.
Series two is also of a high quality, with many of the same themes from series one repeated, but with the added element of danger in the form of Agent Mahone, who becomes ever more desperate to put an end to the escape. The stakes are raised each and every episode, as it becomes increasingly clear that the escapees are not only trying to escape from the authorities, but are battling each other to stay one step ahead of Mahone and The Company.
However, series three is where things start to go wrong for Prison Break. The plot line begins to spiral more and more out of control and further from any perception of reality. Series three is still quite entertaining though and does feature some good character development that is lacking a bit in the earlier series’, the best example of which is Brad Bellick, as he faces the role reversal from guard to an inmate in a brutal and lawless prison.
Series 4 is, quite simply, awful. The series begins to resemble that of a soap, with revelations about family coming at every turn, each more outlandish than the last. It is not long before the final series is almost unrecognizable as the masterclass in tension that is the first two series’. The plot lurches from one crisis to the next, littered with obvious flaws.
On the whole, the first two series’ are really very good television and even series three, despite its problems, is entertaining. Series four is a real stain upon the show as a whole, dragging down the overall rating, and it would have been much better if it had never been produced. There are rumours of another series being produced, and I sincerely hope it is much more like the first two series, which were outstanding.